Baby doll therapy will aid dementia patients

Poynings unit opens on the Hurstpierpoint Ward in the Princess Royal Hospital to help patients with dementia''Ward Manager Lisa Godfrey at the bus stop with a patient
Poynings unit opens on the Hurstpierpoint Ward in the Princess Royal Hospital to help patients with dementia''Ward Manager Lisa Godfrey at the bus stop with a patient
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An award winning dementia unit that has a bus stop to aid memory and calm patients is adopting another therapy tool - life-like baby dolls.

Lisa Godfrey, who manages the Poynings unit on Hurstpierpoint Ward at the Princess Royal Hospital, says baby-doll therapy is particularly effective for patients with severe dementia who struggle to communicate and may be withdrawn or agitated.

Lisa said: “We are looking for donations of the baby-kind of doll like Tiny Tears and wondered if anyone could help us?”

“If you give patients with severe dementia a baby doll to cuddle they often communicate through the doll and talk to it.

“It seems to draw them out of themselves and calm them down.”

Cuddling a baby doll can stimulate memories of a rewarding time in a mother’s life and rekindle familiar parenting roles stored in the emotional memory.

Props to aid memory on the Haywards Heath based unit have a vital calming effect on patients who can feel frightened and confused if they need a hospital stay for surgery or other treatments.

Lisa has a number of therapy tools on the unit, including a bus stop.

She explained: “The bus stop provides a focal point and if you put chairs by it, it registers something in the memory and patients sit down with a magazine or a cup of tea instead of wandering aimlessly or feeling agitated.”

Lisa would like to put a post box at the other end of the ward to provide another focal point.

“We need a small post box to attach to the wall if anyone has one,” said Lisa, who would like an older-style post-box that is more likely to trigger a memory.

In another example of best practice, Lisa has set aside a ‘memory’ room on the ward with old-fashioned wallpaper, older style furniture and an older-style television set.

The unit is a joint venture between Sussex Partnership, the foundation NHS trust providing services for mental health patients in Sussex, and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals - the NHS trust running the Princess Royal Hospital.

If you have a life-like baby doll or an old post-box, Lisa would love to hear from you.

You can contact her via the Princess Royal Hospital on 01444 441881 (ext’ 8254).